October 2007

Crowded House - Time On Earth
ATO Records – 88088-21580-2
Format: CD
Released: 2007

by Joseph Taylor

Musical Performance ***1/2
Recording Quality **1/2
Overall Enjoyment ***1/2

Time on Earth, the first Crowded House recording since 1993’s Together Alone, began as a Neil Finn disc. Finn has pursued a number of musical interests since Crowded House broke up, including two discs with his brother, Tim, and two very fine solo discs: Try Whistling This (1998) and One Nil (2001, released in the US in 2002 as One All with a different track lineup). Since the early '80s, when he was with Split Enz, Finn has shown himself to be the songwriting equal to any of his peers, comparable to Elvis Costello or Andy Partridge.

Finn began to think about reforming Crowded House when the band’s bassist, Nick Seymour, played on some early sessions in 2005 for Finn’s third studio album. Drummer Paul Hester’s tragic suicide meant that a full reunion wouldn’t be possible, but Finn pressed on. A hint of melancholy runs through Time on Earth. Hester was a close friend, and his death is clearly painful to Finn, who sings, "Nobody wants to think about it / Nobody wants to talk about it," on the opening track. Later on in that song, "Nobody Wants To," he adds a touch of hope: "If we open it up / We could work this out."

"Don’t Stop Now" has the immediate appeal of many of Crowded House’s best songs, such as "Don’t Dream It’s Over" or "I Feel Possessed," but most of the other tunes on Time on Earth take time to fully appreciate. Like Finn’s solo records, this disc grapples with life’s difficulties and its occasional triumphs, and, as with those discs, its rewards are deep and long-lasting. I wish producer Ethan Johns had recorded the disc more cleanly. These songs could have used a little more space. Despite its sound limitations, most of the 14 songs on Time on Earth will stay with you.